My 13-month-old cries out. Because of pain? A bad dream? I’ll never know for sure, but his cries pierced the air and I was jolted awake. I jumped up to comfort him, held him in my arms, kissed his soft cheek, and nursed.
Then while he was comforted, snuggled up close to me, I was jolted awake again. Apparently while we were having a peaceful moment before sunrise, the rest of the world was restless, startled, and inconsolable because of the darkness spread over us by yet another senseless act of gun violence.
Las Vegas, the bright light city, was dark.
We just finished the High Holiday season. We were just sitting in services, engaged in deep introspection on ourselves, wondering how we can change for the better in the coming year. We read Unetaneh Tokef (who will live and who will die), and as we read about the fire, water, wind, and earthquakes, the unrest, thirst, and hunger, we acted by collecting food and water to distribute to lessen the decree.
But when events like those in Las Vegas and Edmonton become commonplace, we have no choice but to add the decree “who by senseless gun violence and who by baseless hatred?” I sat in deep prayer for days working to find my better self, praying to God that the world would be a better place. Sadly, thoughts and prayers may be the first step, but they alone are not enough. It’s only with the full complement that any change is made.
Teshuva, tefillah, tzedakah ma’arivin et ro’ah ha’gezerah. “Repentance, prayer and giving will lessen the weight of the decree.” It is a trifecta that will make change.
Teshuva: we must return. We must identify the problem, express out loud the harm we’ve caused. Maimonides teaches that this is how teshuva is done. Today, we must stand up and stand strong and say out loud to anyone who will listen that we will not sit idly and watch senseless violence happen. We must not allow loose gun laws and loopholes to cause terror, loss of life, and heartbreak again. We must not let our elected leaders find rest until they move beyond “thoughts and prayers.” We must demand action of them and of ourselves.
Tefillah: we must pray, together as a community. Though it is not the solution itself, we must all turn inward to heal. In one voice we must cry out that this problem is beyond any one group, beyond any denomination, faith, or skin color, but a communal problem that our combined voices will work to solve.
Tzedakah: we must give. We must give of our time, our voices, our resources. Whether it is a donation to an organization working to end gun violence or one supporting those with mental illness, every giving act counts. We must give back to our communities that continue to support us through these dark days, and we must in turn support those who work towards bringing light.
My baby is snuggled sweetly with his lovey. Safe, warm, and peaceful in his bed. I am not. I have been awakened from my slumber. I am agitated, alarmed, scared, and ready to scream at the top of my lungs. Together, let us switch from silent prayer to loud action. We must make our voices heard. We all must be wide awake.